Kiwi Earl Bamber has high hopes for the second round of the World Endurance Championship at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit this weekend.

The LMP1 Toyota made the most of their high downforce aero kits at Silverstone last month to hunt down the Porsche of Hartley, Bamber and German Timo Bernard to win.

However, Porsche heads to the Ardennes regions of Belgium leading the FIA WEC manufacturer standings after their second car of Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tander rounded out the podium.

Porsche will again be running a low downforce package this weekend in preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hour next month.


"Spa is going to be good, I'm really looking forward to racing there again," said Bamber.

"We were really competitive at Silverstone with low downforce and a lot more so than a lot of people would have thought.

We were though, helped out a bit by the safety car and other small stuff. It's going to be like that at Spa, and all the tracks probably, between the two manufacturers and that's what you want otherwise it's going to be boring.

"We have to try to squeeze every little bit out of the car with its low downforce and it makes qualifying very interesting.

"Toyota can use their complete hybrid system in qualifying and use all the energy. However, during the race they can't recuperate enough energy to deploy, so that's why you see different gaps in the [lap] times between qualifying and the race.

"Basically we have a better energy recovery system and that's why you don't see big gaps in the race."

Spa is akin to a roller-coaster that demands just the right combination of downforce, straight line speed and suspension set up.

The car has to be able to make the most of the long, flat-out sections and yet still be able to negotiate the demands of the winding and technical middle sections, especially the compressed Bus Stop.

Not only do the drivers, especially in the LMP1 class, have to take a deep breath as they approach Eau Rouge and hold it flat, they will also have to be aware of lapped traffic and work on tactical manoeuvres to thread themselves through.

"I went there pretty good when I was racing in the [Porsche] Super Cup. It's also one of the few circuits I've driven [in LMP1 car] having been there in 2015, so looking forward to getting back there in the 919 again.

"The new car has different aero and engine to the one I drove last time and I'm looking forward to getting out there in her.

"It was so cool to be able to have my first race with Brendon at Silverstone and to get on the podium was a good start to the season.

"This circuit is definitely a special place and I was surprised how fast I could go through Eau Rouge and I'm sure our low downforce aero kit suits Spa much better than it did Silverstone," said Bamber.

It can't be forgotten that Silverstone was the first time this combination had raced together and they put on a strong performance, which is a good platform for the rest of the season.

Coming up six seconds short after six hours of racing is no mean feat and expect the trio to be back on the podium again this weekend.

"We're gelling pretty well actually and it's handy that we all know each other. I've known Brendon since we raced against each other in go karts and I know Timo from when I drove for his team when I was racing Carrera Cup Germany after winning the scholarship.

"These small details help go towards making us stronger as a team when racing in the same car," he said.

Spa is typically known for its four seasons in a day. If it's wet that should play in the high downforce Toyotas, but if it's dry the completion should be close and we could get a re-run of the Silverstone race where the closing laps were nailbiters as Hartley was chased down with mere laps to go.

In free practice the Toyota had a minuscule advantage over the two Porsches with the Hartley/Bamber/Bernard combination being held out by just half a second.

Despite occasional light showers, both 90-minute sessions on the 7km track were held in dry conditions. Hartley did though, have a coming together with Oliver Pla at La Source, but both cars carried on.